Why Learning Self-Discipline is Vital for Success

Have you ever noticed that while there are so many people chanting they’re trying to “glow up” or “smash their goals”, that most people are all talk and no action?

Like a one-click purchase on Amazon, many in this instant-gratification addicted world believe that accomplishing their goals only takes a bold declaration of “I’m going to do… *insert life-changing goal here*”, pinning several dozen motivational quotes on Pinterest, and maybe placing a toe over the starting line by Googling ‘How to Accomplish *Thing*”. Few souls ever make it beyond that point. Why is that?

The difference between a daydreamer and a go-getter, I’ve come to realize, is that those few who have put in the work and accomplished what they said they would have learned one of the most vital aspects of success: self-discipline. Why is self-discipline a key ingredient for success? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Self-Discipline Builds Healthy Habits

It’s well-known that it takes 21 days to build a habit, but that’s only attainable if we peel our butts off the couch and plow through the first three days. Learning the best goal-setting techniques or the best methods for acheiving those goals is the easy part. Heck, even rolling out of bed on Day One, eager with anticipation for this new lease on life, can be a breeze if we’ve pumped ourselves up with motivation. But what about on Day Two or Three, or Seventeen, when you’ve had a horrible week at work, you haven’t squeezed in eight hours of sleep in the past three days combined, or you just don’t feel like it, dang it? What then?

Motivation lasts about three seconds in the grand scheme of things. This is why learning to discipline ourselves is much more effective in creating lasting habits that will, in turn, lead to a goal-smashing legacy.

Take young kids for example. If a parent is teaching Little Jenny to have manners at the supper table, they will execute forms of discipline to mold her behavior. If Jenny says “please” and “thank you” and doesn’t play with her food, her parents may reward her good behavior (still an act of discipline) by allowing her to have a little extra dessert, or even pick out a small toy at the store if the good behavior continues. However, if Jenny decides she doesn’t want to behave one night because she doesn’t like the food and purposely hurls her steaming bowl of chili at her dad, that’s obviously a big no-no. Most likely, her parents will discipline Jenny by taking away privileges, teaching her that bad behavior reaps negative consequences.

Now, as independent adults, you and I have to learn to parent ourselves in order to learn new, healthy habits. Parenting is a nicer word for disciplining ourselves to act in certain ways (i.e. waking up earlier to fit in time to work on our goals), rewarding ourselves when we successfully follow through, and teaching ourselves that poor prioritization can reap negative consequences. Here’s a real-life example of this in play:

Being that I’m an October 2021 bride-to-be, I’m currently in the process of losing weight. Over the past couple months, I’ve lost a little over ten pounds, and I’m currently one pound from my goal weight for the wedding. Throughout May and June, I made fantastic progress. I stuck to my goals, and even had a “perfect month” according to my Apple Watch workout app for June… until I went to my first look appointment for my wedding dress. My dress consultant told me I don’t need to lose significantly more weight for the wedding, as it would make it more difficult to take the dress in (since we’re taking it down one size as it is). This was three weeks ago, and though I still desire to lose that one pound, I have been lazy lately, trying to sleep in instead of getting up at 5:15 to workout like I have been each weekday. I’ve been making poor decisions concerning what I’m eating. As a result, I’ve been maintaining my weight at one pound from where I want to be.

Full disclosure: Just because someone writes about self-discipline, it doesn’t make them a robot who can maintain it all the time. You’re not alone. 😉 But we can get back on track.

So, let’s analyze this situation according to the description of self-discipline I mentioned above:

New, Healthy Habit: Working out and eating healthy in order to lose (and eventually maintain) a desired weight.

Behaviors Needed to Develop the Habit: 1) Waking up early to make time to work out for 30 minutes, 2) Meal-prepping salads for work lunches the night before on Sunday-Thursday, and make healthier decisions when eating out 3) Logging calories, weight, and exercises on MyFitnessPal to keep track of progress

Behaviors That Inhibit Habit Development: 1) Sleeping in and bypassing workout time, 2) Deciding not to meal-prep and choose to eat a cheeseburger and fries on my lunch break, 3) Feeling bad because I’m making poor food choices and not exercising, and therefore choosing not to log stats on MyFitnessPal

Okay, so here we have the basic outline for what has allowed this habit to prosper for two months, and the behaviors that have negatively affected the habit over the past couple weeks. Just in case you can’t imagine the benefits and detriments of these different sets of behaviors, allow me to elaborate.

Like I said, for May and June, I was smashing my weight-loss goals. Honestly, I’ve tried to lose weight in the past, and had never had as much success than this go-around. Why was that? With my fiance as my accountability partner (he’s also losing weight, and he’s down around 25 lbs!), I was able to stick to those good behaviors, aka the Behaviors Needed to Develop the Habit. Based on the results which have included losing 10+ lbs, fat loss, (a little TMI here, lol) less heartburn and gas, it’s obvious that good benefits have reaped from the “good” behaviors.

Have the “bad” behaviors, aka the Behaviors That Inhibit Habit Development been as bad as I’m making them out to be? Well, though I haven’t gained weight back yet, I have noticed a ton of negative side effects from straying from my good habits. First of all, I’m skipping workouts in the morning. This means I’m 1) waking up later, therefore rushing more to get to work in the morning, 2) feeling guilty that I haven’t worked out, 3) not sleeping as good as I was while working out, 4) if I do squeeze in a workout, it’s after work, and I have to forgo fun things in order to make time for it (i.e. going for a walk with Josh after supper instead of watching Manifest together). Second, I’m making poor decisions regarding what I’m eating. To avoid total gross-out, let’s suffice it to say my body has not been liking the return of the fast food and sugar doom as much as it’s adored the 5-day-a-week salads over the past couple months.

So, yes, my poor prioritization has led to negative consequences, whereas the former, wise prioritization led to numerous benefits. But, this doesn’t just apply to weight loss. This is true for every single goal ever.

Disciplining ourselves helps us realize that all our decisions have consequences, good or bad, whichever we may choose. Parenting ourselves to make wiser decisions helps us to learn to delay pleasure or reward by getting the more difficult stuff out of the way first (aka the things that, while they may not always be fun, will reap good consequences), so that we can later have free time for fun.

Healthy Productivity Thrives on Longevity of Healthy Habits

Once we learn self-discipline and those healthy habits become a permanent part of our lifestyle, we’re setting ourselves up for success when it comes to tackling those long-term goals. But, does self-discipline stop there? Let’s dig deeper.

Let’s say that, over the past month, you’ve developed the habit of writing 500 words a day on your newest manuscript. At the end of the month, (let’s say, June, so 30 days), you ended up with a total of 15,000+ words. Because you’ve developed this habit by making wise decisions and sticking to your guns, the next month should come easier. You may even surpass the 15k, and realize you have the potential to write 20k in a month instead. But, what we don’t realize about self-discipline is that, to truly be a good form of discipline, it must always work to better you in the long run, not hurt you. Here’s what I mean.

You were able to build this healthy habit of writing 500 words a day, which enabled you to write 20k in a month later on, right? But, even though you were able to achieve it for a solid month, have you taken the time to analyze your overall well-being during that period? Did your physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual health decline in that time period due to any stress this new goal caused? If it didn’t, then hey, that’s healthy productivity. Keep going! But, if altering the once healthy habit to “make you more productive” led to negative side effects for your well-being, then it’s no longer a healthy habit.

In a case such as this, in order to reach healthy productivity by utilizing the longevity of healthy habits, we would need to first utilize our self-discipline and make the wise decision of I’m not going to put my well-being at risk to increase productivity. But why? How is parenting yourself by imposing limits good for you or your goals?

Making the decision of I’m not going to put my well-being at risk to increase productivity allows you to prioritize your well-being over your goals. In the tug of war between productivity and personal well-being, well-being should always win; though in our day in age, it often is ignored in favor of the hustle mentality. But, what society doesn’t tell you about the hustle mentality is that it often leads to burnout if you ignore taking care of yourself for too long. Burnout can be avoided if we use self-discipline every now and then, evaluate our goals and our well-being at the time, and reroute if needed.

If you’ve been following my WIP Updates and/or Editing Diaries posts over the past few months, you know I’ve had some issues getting back into writing after a unplanned hiatus from October 2020 until April or May 2021. The reason for the hiatus was due to a ton of different issues, but one of them was the need I felt to write at least 10,000 words each month, because I knew I was capable of doing so. Yes, back in 2019, I had a very productive (well, for me, anyway) writing year and wrote in excess of 100,000 words; but, I didn’t have as much going on then as I did in 2020 or even now. And now, I realize that writing hiatus could have been avoided if I showed myself some grace, as part of my parenting/self-discipline regimen, and decided hey, you’ve got a lot on your plate right now with wedding planning, releasing The Crush and being your usual anxious self, so let’s cut back the word count to 5,000 words per month until the book comes out.

But, I didn’t think to do that. All I could think of was that stupid hustle mentality, and all that did was hustle myself into a semi mental breakdown. This is why learning self-discipline in the form of setting boundaries for ourselves is also a key ingredient in finding success. You can’t run the road to success if you’re continually ignoring and then therefore tripping over gaping holes in the asphalt. By utilizing self-discipline to prioritize our personal health, we take care of those cracks before they turn into large holes.

Self-Discipline Isn’t a Bad Thing

The word “discipline” has a bad reputation of being a negative act, but few realize how beneficial healthy forms of discipline can be. Finding a good balance between disciplining yourself to work hard and make progress on your goals, as well as not working yourself into a mental breakdown, can be difficult, but it is possible. The best advice I can give is to remember that your methods of “self-discipline” should derive from you and God alone, and not from anyone else. If you follow someone else’s path to success, you’ll never find your own, but if you learn how to parent yourself, get a firm grasp of what you want to accomplish and when, and learn ways to discipline your behavior in healthy ways to get there, a shining light will soon illuminate your path to success.

Take care of yourself, work hard, and smash those goals. ❤

Talk to Me, Arrowheads!

What other tips for self-discipline do you have? Share your wisdom in the comments, as well as one goal you’re working to achieve in 2021!

Aim high, stay strong, and always hit your mark.

-Allyson 😀

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As an author and blogger, my goal is to teach writers that there is a way to write realistic, thought-provoking, redemptive Christian fiction that honors God while not sugarcoating the realities of the world. 

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